July 10, 2002

Three of four small SUVs rated good in 40 mph crash tests

Arlington, Virginia – Of four small SUVs recently subjected to 40 mph frontal offset crash tests by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, three earned the top crashworthiness rating and one was rated acceptable.

The 2002 Honda CR-V, 2003 Subaru Forester, and 2002 Saturn VUE were rated good overall. The CR-V and Forester also earned “best pick” designations. Another small SUV, the 2002 Land Rover Freelander (an older design that has been newly introduced in the North American market), was rated acceptable.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safetys ratings reflect performance in a 40 mph frontal offset crash test into a deformable barrier. Based on the results of this test, the Institute evaluates the crashworthiness of passenger vehicles, assigning each vehicle a rating of good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

“Before this set of tests, only the Hyundai Santa Fe and previous Forester design, among small SUVs, earned good overall crashworthiness ratings. Adding more small SUVs to those with good ratings is further proof that manufacturers are working to improve the performances of their new designs in offset tests. This will mean improved protection for people in serious real-world crashes,” said Institute president Brian O’Neill.

In addition to the small SUVs with good ratings, four other current designs are rated acceptable and two are marginal.

Structural design is key to good performance: The CR-V, Forester, VUE, and Freelander all earned good ratings for structural performance in the offset test. The occupant compartments of these vehicles held up well, preserving the space around the driver dummy.

A vehicle’s structural design is key to its crashworthiness performance because the Institute’s frontal offset crash test into a deformable barrier is especially demanding of this aspect of vehicle design. The driver side hits the barrier, so a relatively small area of the vehicle’s front-end structure must manage the crash energy. This means intrusion into the occupant compartment is much more likely to occur than in a full-width test.

“If a vehicle’s front-end structure absorbs and manages the crash energy so the occupant compartment remains largely intact, with little or no intrusion into the driver’s space, then the dummy’s movement during the crash is likely to be well controlled, and injury measures are likely to be low. In contrast, poor structural design means greater likelihood of poor control of the dummy and high injury measures,” O’Neill said.

The structural performance of the new CR-V was especially good compared with the previous CR-V design. There was very little intrusion into the occupant compartment of the new model, and all of the injury measures recorded on the dummy were good. In contrast, measures recorded on the dummy’s head and left leg in the crash of the predecessor (1998) model indicated significant injury likelihood.

For more information and crash photos, visit the Insurance Institute’s web-site at www.hwysafety.org.

Connect with Autos.ca